Hannah Black

  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

    PORTIONS OF CLAUDIA RANKINE’S Just Us first appeared in the New York Times Magazine and were posted online with the clickbaity headline “I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked.” In the article—now the second section of the book, after some introductory poems—Rankine relates some of the material covered in a class called Constructions of Whiteness that she teaches at Yale. As part of the class, her students sometimes interview strangers about race. “Perhaps this is why . . . I wondered what it would mean to ask random white men how they understood their

  • Coming to Terms

    Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years in Power collects eight essays published in The Atlantic between 2008 and 2017, padded with fresh introductions. Three meanings of the time period in the title are apparent. The first refers to the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. The second, alluded to in the book’s introduction, refers to the eight years of “good Negro government” cited in vain by black congressman Thomas Miller in 1895, as the predominant political climate of the South transitioned, as Coates puts it, “from the egalitarian innovations of Reconstruction to an oppressive ‘

  • The Body Politic

    Roxane Gay’s heartfelt new memoir Hunger puts its author’s struggle to write it front and center. The first four chapters start with a variation on “This is the story of my body.” Chapter 2 begins: “The story of my body is not a story of triumph.” Wary of discourses that politicize and often celebrate fat, such as body positivity or queer feminism, Gay presents a sad history of her size. After a horrifying rape at the age of twelve, she became very fat in order to protect herself: “I made myself bigger. I made myself safer. I created a distinct boundary between myself and anyone who dared to